Houston Hosts Global Trustees
HOUSTON, March 6, 2014 — The Global Trustees’ two-day meeting in Houston got underway with an intimate dinner featuring Former Ambassador Ryan Crocker, whose long career as a diplomat included stints in virtually every hotspot in the Muslim world. Crocker shared a trick to defuse tense discussions in those countries. He launched into poetry, in Arabic. “When the appropriate moment came in the conversation,” he recalled, “my ability to recite — even in a bad accent — something so cherished by Muslims generally got the conversation into a better place than before.” Crocker recounted this in the course of praising Asia Society’s work in exposing Americans to the cultural richness of Asian countries. He praised Asia Society saying the organization was unique in its mission: “The emphasis the Society has placed on culture, on literature, on music make it absolutely unique among major organizations focusing on foreign affairs in this country,” he said. “Asia Society does this better than anyone. No one does what you do. Asia Society has the horse power, wattage and ability more than anyone else.”
The next day, trustees and officers from around Asia Society's global network gathered to take in a fascinating array of leaders and experts at Asia Society Texas Center who shared insights from economic and foreign policy issues, to how innovation is changing our global society.
A morning panel moderated by Asia Society Executive Vice President Tom Nagorski, featured distinguished panelists Ronnie Chan, Co-chair of Asia Society; Mitchell Julius, Co-founder, Canyon Partners; and Hamid Biglari, a former Vice Chair of Citigroup. The panel took on hot topics, including whether the U.S. and Iran would strike a comprehensive nuclear deal, Japan's leeriness of China’s intentions, economic growth in Asia, and what’s at stake for India and its political landscape if Narendra Modi is elected Prime Minister. Among many vital topics, the panel weighed whether a Modi victory would create a more business friendly India and took on analysis that the era of double digit growth may be over for Asia.
In a second panel, Asia Society Co-chair Henrietta Holsman Fore led a discussion between Dr. Ronald DePinho, president of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Omar Ishrak, Chairman and CEO of Medtronic, who both gave crucial views on combating cancer and global health care issues. DePinho said a key goal for the industry should be to “spread knowledge as broadly as possible.” In one example, he noted the success of seat-belt campaigns in improving vehicle passenger safety, and how that awareness could be replicated to educate the public about wearing sunscreen to reduce melanoma risk. Ishrak pointed to three healthcare pillars that all people want: quality, lower cost, and improved access. On the last point, he said it’s alarming that even today, “billions of people don’t have access to basic treatments that came out 50 years ago.”
The schedule culminated with a luncheon featuring powerful and visionary remarks by Asia Society President Josette Sheeran. Before a packed room, Sheeran asserted that an emphasis on including students and investing in future generations is critical to Asia Society’s mission. She opened with poignant anecdotes about the Society’s founding after John D. Rockefeller 3rd returned from a war devastated Japan. “If we don’t understand history and culture, we get nowhere,” said Sheeran, adding that Rockefeller understood very well in a chance meeting with a Japanese sword maker that “more binds us together than divides us.” Sheeran took questions, including how cultures overlap in Asia, from students attending the luncheon from Houston Academy for International Studies, Sharpstown International School, and Tompkins High School (Katy). Regarding the organization’s focus, Sheeran said “it’s not a matter of demand, but a matter of choosing what’s most important and most critical.” Sheeran stressed that Asia Society is more relevant than ever and observed that Asia could face a future marked by the biggest rise in prosperity that we’ve ever seen.
The group experienced firsthand why the tourism office touts why Texas is like a whole other country enjoying a night at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Video 1: Economic Foreign Policy Discussion (55 min., 33 sec.)
Video 2: Panel Discussion on Innovation (40 min., 40 sec.)